Workplaces are diversifying quickly—and for good reason. Ensuring that your business is a safe space is good not just for the employees, but the business as a whole. An environment of respect and inclusion radiates outwards, taking the form of glowing recommendations by your workers and unparalleled productivity
A Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI) task force is a group assembled to elevate your company’s cultural awareness. Generally composed of a group of volunteers, this group is dedicated solely to bettering your workplace and improving the lives of more vulnerable employees. In this piece, we’ll be discussing the benefits of a DEI task force, and how that group can take action effectively and respectfully.
What are the Benefits/Duties of a DEI Task Force?
Having a specific group created to handle diversity, inclusion, and equity issues is a huge boon. This will help encourage constant assessment of company policy or standards as it relates to DEI. In addition, because a DEI task force will be a place to direct all matters that fall under one of those three categories, the HR department is freed up from handling more than they should be.
The focused nature of the task force increases the rate at which problems are solved as well. No longer will there be meeting after meeting where diversity issues are put to the side for more pressing matters. Things will get done, and they’ll get done quickly.
Practices to Avoid
When assembling your DEI task force, and as the team begins its work, there are a few things to avoid. Firstly, the team should be composed of volunteers. Don’t make participation mandatory for somebody just because it’s thought that they’d make a great addition to the team. This will ensure that all members are active participants.
After the task force is created, it should become an active force as soon as possible. It shouldn’t just wait for large issues to roll in to start reporting. Instead, they should give consistent updates on progress, and focus on existing systems and smaller issues as well.
A DEI task force is ultimately for the betterment of the workforce, so deviating from possible solutions in favor of a more corporate approach is frowned upon. Obviously, the buck still stops at the top, but employees that feel safe are more likely to stick around in the long run. During a time of high turnover, employee satisfaction should be a strong priority for any and all employers.
DEI Task Force Goals and Taking Action
A DEI task force’s goals should be situational and data-driven. Due to the nature of the task force, any action needs to be respectful and inclusive as well. As such, any and all action should be structured and methodical. Here is an example of how things might be organized, as well as an example scenario:
Determine an area of interest
The first step is deciding which area to address. For this example, let’s say the topic is “company days off.”
Choose a policy/practice within that area
Within the broader area of interest, choose a specific element. In this case, let’s choose the company’s holiday policy.
Collect data/information on said topic
Once a specific focus area is chosen, it’s important to begin assessing available data or information regarding the policy or procedure—or collecting new data/information as needed. This will help address where the needs are. When looking at holiday policy, you may find that only Christmas is given as a winter PTO holiday.
Decide whether things could/need to be changed
With the necessary data in hand, you can begin to assess if there needs to be a change. For example, the task force may decide that only giving time off for Christmas does not promote an inclusive environment, and therefore that a change needs to be made.
Confer and decide how changes should be implemented
Once it’s determined that changes are needed, you can then begin to outline what the changes may look like and how they can be implemented. In this case, the task force may recommend that the holiday policy be changed to include Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as paid holidays.
Put changes into action
The most important step: turning ideas into change. Consult with the necessary departments to have all changes approved, and make sure that the company is made aware of the new or updated policy/procedures. In regards to company holidays, this means getting both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa approved as holidays and ensuring a memo is sent out to all employees informing them of the changes.
This is just a general guideline. Ultimately, there may be plenty of extra, intermediary steps that the diversity task force will have to go through.
Structure Your Team Based On Goals
Like any other competent task force, how a group is internally divided and structured can either bolster or hamper its success. Divide your goals into meaningful categories. Then assign leaders and groups to focus on those areas of interest.
A good example of proper resource and team division is the Miami University DEI task force. Created in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, this group was divided into five “pillars”. These pillars are:
- Dialogue and Allyship
- Cultural Consciousness
- Advocacy and Partnerships
- Structural and Resource Support
- Inclusion and Accountability
Properly organizing your team to align with your goal areas allows for much greater success than an unorganized group. Folks assigned to a certain group will understand what role they play within the task force, and as a result, jobs are more easily defined and assigned.
Always Reflect on Your DEI Goals and Results
Assessing your DEI task force goals is an ongoing process. In order for the task force to be productive, it’s important to constantly reflect and examine the goals the task force has created and the results of any changes that were made. This will promote an ever-evolving DEI strategy, and make it easy to demonstrate the results to managers or the executive team.